Glenn Hamer

Arizona added a major feather to its cap when it was recently named to the rotation of hosts for the reconfigured national college football championship. And the state takes its turn in the Super Bowl again when the big game comes to town for the third time in 2015.

But while not covered on ESPN, we really hit the big time when the Super Bowl of Science came to town this week.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair took over the Phoenix Convention Center this week. More than 1,500 representatives from over 70 countries in grades 9-12 are here to show their stuff and duke it out over $4 million in awards, grants and scholarships.

Think of Intel ISEF as a sort of NFL scouting combine for science talent. Everywhere you look there’s a young person who could be the next Gates or Jobs. Everyone in the convention hall is a winner. We literally have the brightest science students in the world right now in Phoenix.

And there’s plenty of inspiration for the competitors. A panel discussion on Tuesday featured four (!) Nobel Prize winners. How’s that for mentorship?

Being at the Convention Center this week was a peek of what our country can look like if we pursue higher educational standards for our citizens and make it easier for the best and the brightest from around the world to become future U.S. citizens.

There are high school-aged students in Phoenix this week making their first trip abroad. What an opportunity to show off what the U.S. and Arizona have to offer. These are students who, with a pro-business, pro-STEM visa policy could come to the U.S. and transform our economy. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Let’s go get them. The immigration bill developed by the Gang of Eight, including our Sens. McCain and Flake, would dramatically improve our ability to keep international math and science standouts in the U.S.

But Intel ISEF also showed that U.S. kids have limitless potential when it comes to the sciences. Twenty Arizona students were on hand as Intel ISEF contenders, including six from Intel’s home turf of Chandler where Chandler High School and Hamilton High School were both represented. University, Brophy and Xavier College Preparatory, North Canyon, BASIS Scottsdale, Tucson Magnet and Baboquivari High Schools also sent multiple students. It was an outstanding showing for those schools.

Gov. Brewer, who visited with the Arizona competitors, said, “If our state can effectively nurture the kind of innovative spirit, passion and know-how I saw in these students today, I know Arizona’s future will be in good hands.”

She’s right. Her advocacy for the adoption of the Arizona Common Core standards and past efforts by the state board of education to increase math and science requirements, along with our state’s culture for school choice that is spawning elite institutions in STEM, will increase the pipeline for future participation from Arizona students. And because of the pro-business policies we’ve put in place over the last several years, including the best in class Arizona Commerce Authority Innovation Challenge, a top-drawer research and development tax credit and the about-to-be-phased-in capital gains tax reduction, which is a significant driver for investment, Arizona is poised to be the nation’s leader in innovation.

As this year’s festivities conclude, Intel ISEF returns to Arizona in 2016. I can’t wait.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry